Monday, May 2, 2011

Southern Endeavors

I had a wonderful time down South and on the West coast.  Lots to see and do.  I was warned before I left that it would be quite cold (and was graciously loaned some woolens and coats).  I saw many people still wearing their stubbies* (short-shorts) though it was often cold cold cold.  The weather was perfect- sunshine every day, which is unusual (especially for the West Coast). Lucky me!
Taieri Gorge sky

My journey began with a day-long bus ride from Nelson to Dunedin.  Parts were really beautiful, especially the Lewis Pass.

I loved Dunedin.  Highlights: On the Taieri Gorge Train, I enjoyed standing outside the cars and watching the scenery flash by (though my fingers were numb by the end).  The Elm wildlife tour was a fantastic opportunity to see the Otago Peninsula and its animal residents. The University of Otago is the oldest Uni in New Zealand. 
yellow-eyed penguins

sea lion

fur seal

sheep and penguins sharing a hillside

 I loved walking around the campus and seeing Castle Street, which is like all of the seedy bits of West Campus (Austin) thrown onto one main drag.  Other great walks included going through the Botanic Garden, and my trek up the steepest street in the world (Baldwin Street).  The Otago Farmer's Market was heaps of fun.  I bought some fresh fruits and veggies and listened to a great band from Fiji play for about an hour.

market band

fall in Arrowtown
Mirror Lakes in Fiordland National Park
I was sad to leave Dunedin, but I headed as per schedule to Queenstown, which was absolutely beautiful with all of its fall colors.  I didn't like the character of the city as much as I liked Dunners, but I still had a great time.  I rode the gondola up to Bob's Peak, where I had a spectacular view of the mountains as the sun went down.  My afternoon in nearby Arrowtown was a pleasant day of walking amid fall splendor. A day trip to Milford Sound was an incredible excursion, as it is really beautiful, we saw bottlenose dolphins, and drove through Fiordland National Park, which I'd love to come back to someday.
Milford waterfall

mountains along the sound
  I splurged at the very popular and always crowded Fergburger (delicious).  I had some fun Dutch roommates, Rens & Nick, who were headed to California soon and so bombarded me with questions about America.  The Kawaru Jet Boat was excellent (I was skeptical because it was pricey, but it was definitely worth it).  My jet boat had an extra adventure when a rock got caught in the intake, the steering froze, and we were beached in the middle of the Shotover River.  It was fun, and we got free picture packages out of it.  At the Kiwi Wildlife Park, I saw lots of New Zealand natives, including (yes) a kiwi!  It was bigger than I expected it to be, but still very cute.

adult Tuatara- they are AWESOME

Next I headed to Franz Josef, a tiny town near the Franz Josef glacier.  Basically what you do in Franz is climb the glacier; there's not much else.  But the glacier was FANTASTIC.  I did a full-day tour with the glacier guides, and it was awesome.  I wore crampons for the first time, and surprisingly did not injure myself.  The ice was so beautiful, and as a geological formation I find it quite fascinating.
Also, Franz Josef is one of only 3 temperate glaciers in the world (one other is just down the road and the third is in Argentina).  I saw some magnificent Kea fly overhead.  They are some crazy cheeky parrots, but very pretty.  The glacier included entrance to the hot pools (basically big hot tubs. my goal is to go to some actual geothermal pools while I'm here), so I went with some girls I met on the tour.

Conveniently, my friend Holly was staying with some friends outside of Greymouth for the weekend, so I met her there and got to hang out on a huge farm with some cool Kiwis.  The next day I rode back to Nelson with Holly and her boyfriend Scottie, and now here I am!

Today I had a wonderful day.  I babysat Leo for a bit (he's now blowing kisses!), walked into town and learned how to cook risotto from Emma and Tim.  Tomorrow I am headed to Arapawa Island with the Marshalls (some friends of Laurie's - Holly is their daughter).  Then on to the North Island for the remainder of my trip!
NZ flax, Otago Peninsula

*A Smattering of Kiwi Slang:
  • "sweet as"- "I confirm that what you are proposing is good by me" (from a Global Culture t-shirt).  Actually, this unfinished simile is common. Things can be "cheap as," "kiwi as," "dirty as" etc.
  • "knackered"- tired out
  • "tucker"- food
  • "cuppa"- a cup of tea (or coffee)
  • "tea"- could be tea that you drink, or could refer to dinner (or occasionally to other meals). For instance, someone could say, "Do you want to come over for tea? We could do a bbq!" 
  • "jandals"- flip-flops 
  • "lollies"- candy or something sweet
  • "OE"- Overseas Experience, often taken the year after college (American equivalent-high school) 
  • "Uni"- university
  • "Pommie"- a British person, from Prisoner Of Mother England
  • "Sunnies"- sunglasses
  • "eh"- similar to the Canadian eh. Except I think Kiwis say it more than Canadians.  
p.s. formatting blogspot is ruining my life. any ideas?

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